The subject matter for the start of Grass Based Livestock class this week was livestock handling. For this you need to understand the animals flight zone and how to use it to your advantage to get the animal to move when and where you want it to go. The flight zone is basically an imaginary line, or boundary around an animal, and if you are inside that line the animal will move away from you, and if you are outside it the animal will ignore you or at least not move. The discussion also included cattle handling facilities for doctoring, moving and loading animals, cattle in particular. We also discussed what to look for in a cow that works best on grass (want a little short legged round cow with good feet whose parents did good on grass). Paddock layout and strip grazing was also covered. Then we watched a Joel Salatin video on getting started farming. These where some of the key bits of wisdom:
- Start with producing what you like to eat.
- Then produce extra to sell
- Start a cash flow
- Get involved with the community and make connections
- Be functional not perfect
- Don't move from something until you get shoved out of what is already functioning well
- Only worry about stuff you have control over
In Sociology of Agriculture our Ag. periodical assignment was due this week. For this assignment, several of the Agriculture and Rural Community-orientated periodicals at the M-State Library were reviewed for applicability to potential future agricultural pursuits and further screened for subjects that have previously been covered in other classes and workshops. One article selected is from Acres USA (Klober, "Seasonal Pork Production", pgs 58-60) and the other article is from “Small Farmers Journal” (Birdsall, "A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses", 41-43). After this paper was handed in we discussed one of our reading assignments "Birth Defects, Season of Conception, and Sex of Children Born to Pesticide Applicators Living in the Red River Valley of Minnesota, USA" by Gary, Harkings etc. Environmental Medicine and Pathology Laboratory, U of M, Minnesota, USA. Published in Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 110, Supplement 3, June 2002. Here is a portion of the summary from that article:
"Previously, we showed that applicators and the general population of the Red River Valley (RRV) had the highest birth defect rate in the state of Minnesota. In the present more detailed study, we showed that in families of fungicide applicators from the RRV, the number of live-born male children with or without birth defects was significantly reduced. As in our earlier study, conceptions in the spring led to significantly more children with birth defects compared to children conceived in any other season. These data suggest that environmental agents present in the spring, perhaps herbicides, have an adverse effect on the birth defect rate...". In this study they found that 10.1% of pesticide applicators participating in this study had at least one child born with birth defects which compares with only 3.7% of children born on an average day in the USA. I don't know about you but if I lived in the RRV I would be worried. It also makes me worry about eating foods with pesticide and other chemical residue on it.
The class finished up with a discussion on seed saving and then a presentation on Minnesota Seed Law by Jeff from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Seed Regulatory Division. Jeff is responsible for enforcement and education on Minnesota Seed Law for a 28 county area of Minnesota. The presentation was his compliance training presentation that he gives to producers. Following the presentation there was a good question and answer session. If you should decide that you want to save seed and distribute them to others make sure you read up on the requirements and license needs.
In Farm Marketing and Management we discussed our reading assignment on Supply Chains and went over the various marketing channels, conventional, intermediate and direct. With direct to the consumer being the most profitable to the producer. Discussed developing an Operations Strategy Summary which is basically a transition plan for getting your business from year-0 to up and running (year 3 or 4). Setting goals for what do you need to do and when do you need to do it. Breaking it down into how many units do you need to sell to pay for what you need to operate. Next the discussion went to Taxes and Schedule "F" on your Federal return and what goes into that. We also covered record keeping and what is the very best record keeping system there is. It is the one you will actually do!
Farm Marketing and Management finished up with a review of the marketing materials that were due prior to this class and further work on worksheets that will be used to develop our individual business plans. The marketing materials I prepared were a flyer and business cards for my "Conservation Cows" grass fed ground beef operation. Does this make you want to order grass-fed ground beef? Send me your comments: